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Boda boda free zones great, but treat riders fairly

It is laudable that President Yoweri Museveni’s cabinet has approved a decision of Kampala Capital City  Authority (KCCA) to designate the central business district CBD) as a no-go area for boda boda (motorcycle transport).

KCCA is also directing all riders to register at designated stages. Registration of these riders is crucial for both the security of the country and safety of the passengers.

Further, KCCA has directed all bodaboda app companies (such as Safeboda) to share their registers of members or employees with the authority.

On the face of it, the decision appears noble. For it is intended to control the dizzying traffic congestion and intolerable noise pollution in the city. However, the execution of these decisions appears unreasonable and arbitrary.

And unreasonableness gained currency in March, the moment the President issued arbitrary directives intended to control the spread of the corona virus disease (COVID-19). Nearly every government agency involved in enforcing these directives has been brutal and arbitrary. And they have taken to fear mongering as a control tool.  

The fear of being beaten or jailed has been the stimulus for obeying these directives. In fact, many people wear face masks, not necessarily to protect themselves but to avoid the wrath of the gun totting and stick wielding security agencies.

The essence of these protective equipment has been lost in translation of these directives.  Unfortunately, the enforcers have taken the apparent compliance with the directives as submission to authority. The reverse is true.

People are not complying with the directives or whatever orders because they feel they are useful. They do it because they fear to be inconvenienced by being dumped into police cells.

They are also trying to limit extortion by the security agencies such the LDUs and police, who ask for money in place of being thrown behind bars for breaching the directives. KCCA is also treating the riders like a group of people who do not deserve fair treatment. In a democratic society it is in everyone’s interest that fair treatment especially in the conduct of public affairs is given priority.

It would have been proper for KCCA to give the riders ample notice to allow them reorganize their affairs, before their bikes are impounded by the enforcement officers.

The sad thing is that the impounding of these bikes has created an opportunity for the police officers and other enforcement agencies to exhort money from the bike owners or riders. KCCA and other enforcement agencies need to review their philosophy of: “without the ability to use force, there is no enforcement at all and there are no laws.”

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